Living To Music – Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan ‘Rufusized’





YEAR: 1974

This Sunday (December 2nd) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. If it’s not possible to make the allotted time, hopefully you can join in at your convenience at some point during the following weeks. See update here:

I’m going to indulge myself this month with an album that I don’t think has ever been given its full dues, despite selling over a million copies following its release in 1974. As far as I’m concerned, it should be recognised as one of the great Soul / Funk albums of the ’70s, but, having introduced it to so many people down the years, a fair percentage of whom I was surprised had never previously heard it, I’m aware that there’s a blind spot when it comes to ‘Rufusized’, which, to my mind, perfectly fits the description of ‘hidden classic’.

Rufus were led by the dynamic Chaka Khan, one of the great female vocalists. Khan, from Chicago, was born Yvette Marie Stevens, but adopted the African name ‘Chaka’ whilst working as a volunteer on the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast For Children program in the late ’60s. In 1971 she joined Rufus (originally known as Ask Rufus) a multi-racial band who’d sign to ABC Records, releasing their first album, the self-titled ‘Rufus’ in 1973. Their big breakthrough came via the single, ‘Tell Me Something Good’, which was taken from their second album, 1974’s ‘Rags To Rufus’ (the group name now amended to Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan). ‘Tell Me Something Good’ was specially penned for the band by Stevie Wonder (who’d been greatly impressed by their debut LP), and would go platinum, picking up the Grammy for Best Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus – check out a wonderful live version here from ‘74: http://youtu.be/pR–nDR88b0.

The first Rufus track I heard was ‘Once You Get Started’, which was taken from ‘Rufusized’, their third album (it had quickly followed ‘Rags To Rufus’, also being issued in ’74), and after buying it on 7”, along with the subsequent singles, ‘Stop On By’ and ‘Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me Of A Friend)’, I eventually invested in a copy of the album.

I pretty much fell in love with Chaka Khan on seeing  the photo inside the gatefold sleeve – there’s such a natural vibe to the shot and she oozes pure exuberance (as she does, surrounded by the band, on the front cover). The same freedom of spirit is evident in her voice – I don’t think she’s ever sounded better (and I don’t say that lightly, given the great tracks she recorded later down the line). She was 21 at the time and brimming with bold youthful energy, emanating real feminine power in her vocal performance, which taps into a womanly wisdom far beyond her years.

‘Rufusized’ reached #7 on the US chart, whilst it also had reasonable success here, scraping into the top 50 at #48. Although ‘Once You Got Started’ followed ‘Tell Me Something Good’ into the Top 10 of the US chart (the single sandwiched in between, ‘You Got The Love’, which just missed out, having stalled at #11), Rufus & Chaka would have to wait until almost a decade on and ‘Ain’t Nobody’ before scoring their first UK hit.

Chaka Khan would continue to record with Rufus until 1983, culminating with ‘Ain’t Nobody’ , their most enduring single, (a bonus studio recording from their final session together, included on their live album, ‘Stompin’ At The Savoy’), but, after ’78, her association with Rufus would also run parallel with a highly successful solo career, including the major hits ‘I’m Every Woman’, from her debut album, ‘Chaka’, and her cover version of the Prince song, ‘I Feel For You’, in 1984.

Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

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10 Responses to Living To Music – Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan ‘Rufusized’

  1. Amanda Caza December 3, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    It sounds so fresh, and Chaka’s supremely sexy, dynamite roar reminds me of the ultimate Naughty Gal Betty Davis. The musicianship provides a flawless setting for her incredible voice to shine in, and I was especially impressed by “I’m a woman” and “Your Smile”. I agree that throughout the album”her vocal performance.. taps into a womanly wisdom far beyond her years,” and I really enjoyed listening to Chaka at the beginning of her Diva powers. This will be another new discovery introduced by LTM that will become favourite for years to come I think!

    Maybe some day soon we can have some Betty Davis?!

  2. phil hongkins December 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    propa propa album. Nice one mr wilson , i didnt meet this pc of magic till 78 . It was one of the reasons i veered away from the casino n my love of nortern soul, i had heard o this funk stuff n i went to PEMPS late 77 or early 78 and i was hooked . 1st RUFUS choon i heard was ” stop on by ” then ” once you get started ” these were floorfillers at PEMPS , for such a shitty amd i do mean shitty little club the music policy was well black and well heavy into funk , in many ways pemps was like the casino people went for the music , the crack , the experience , rufus for me were foremost at an awesome period for BLACK music heavy duty FUNK, from PARLIAMENT , through BRASS CONSTRUCTION , SLAVE ,HAMILTON BOHANNON , ETC , SOS BAND , CRUSADERS ooops am on one this album brings bake so many memories , thanks GREG . u dun it again . ha ha

  3. Gavin December 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    This month’s pick was great timing for me as I’m really getting into this sound at the moment. Thought the production throughout was great. Towards the end, I was thinking that although I enjoyed everything so far, there wasn’t a standout track. Then ‘Stop On By’ knocked me for six! Love the groove and the harmonies are just something else.

    What a gem, tucked away at the end!

  4. MazP December 6, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    Love this album as it was introduced to me by my Mum (god rest her funky soul). She loved it and I know all the words to each track as I was brought up on this album. My favourite track of the whole album is ‘Stop on By” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amUWPQXGY8k although I do love the whole album from start to finish.

    I have properly rinsed this album somewhat over the years and it has always come with me on the journey to and from the Southport Weekender and played in the chalet.

    Chaka Khan – Great Vocalist, Rufus – Great Band, Rufusized – Great Album….not much else I can say about it. I love it now as a 36yr old as much as I did as a 6yr old.

  5. Lou Lou December 6, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    I know of Chaka only from her 80s big hits. Was always struck by her presence. I am surprised to say I don’t think I’ve heard any of the tracks from this album before. I found her voice to be so clear, is pure the right word? The sheer power and the softness certainly warmed me inside. (or maybe that was the lovely hot port – thanks T 😉 )

    It’s certainly an album i’ll be listening to again. Thanks again Greg for a new one on me.

  6. BrianE December 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Really top production and classic funk sounds such as that ‘scratchy guitar strummin’ that was really fresh in it’s day and defined an era in music, Amazing vocals of course. Nice tempo variations on most of the tracks which was refreshing! A good listen.

  7. TC December 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    One of my fave albums. One of my fave singers at her very best. Never really thought about it before but it dawned on me that several tracks on this album don’t have a second verse but simply repeat the words of the first section but obviously sung in a completely different way. My personal faves on this album are Something Mellow, Please Pardon Me and of course, Stop on By.

  8. Nadia December 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    My copy of this album has got my eldest cousin’s name written in schoolgirl cursive on the inside of the gatefold sleeve. I borrowed it and somehow never got round to giving it back. We couldn’t have been more different, she and I but we shared one thing….the need to escape the expectations of the place we were in. She had run away from home but ended up back on the estate where we lived, pregnant with a beautiful child by an African she had met in Manchester where she danced to Chaka. I watched what she did and listened to her records and I felt the sense of release in that voice and the journey it took you on and it moved me and I danced and planned and eventually I packed my bags and I moved too.

  9. Henry January 4, 2013 at 12:32 am #

    Heheh, now we’re talking 🙂

    Customary apologies for being late. Thanks for the intro to this one – I loved everything about it, across the board. Chaka’s voice is second to none (except maybe Kathy Sledge) for me as I’m sure many others. The band is fantastic too – I know Chaka’s output pretty well but I’ll admit I’m much less familiar than I should be with Rufus’.

    It’s got that super-dry 70s production too, I used to think that was a high-fidelity big-budget rock thing, but have recently discovered (via Greg) it’s very much a jazz-funk thing too, which makes sense – fewer effects and studio tricks leaves room for the notes.

    Pack’d My Bags – lovely tune. There’s a fine line between stuff like this and unadulterated mush, and this has enough bite to still pack a groove. Actually, Your Smile dances on the line a bit..heh….great, though.

    Good to hear some old school talk box on Rufusized…this album is stuffed with sample material, isn’t it? To be honest, that’s probably how I judge whether I like stuff or not, not purely because of sampleability, but because it’s a sign of groove/funk.

    I’m a Woman – (I just wrote) insanely funky. Love a funk tune with a 4/4 kick. Serious Moog(?) solo on Right Is Right. Half Moon is perhaps the only tune that didn’t grab me straight away, because of the tempo, but I adore it now – I love the rocky edge, not to mention the RIDICULOUS drum break. I could probably happily just listen to the drum stems from this record, actually.

    Stop On By is lush, great way to end the record. Sticking a copy of the vinyl on my dream shopping list (behind a decent turntable) 🙂

  10. Peter Kelly March 27, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    Hi, Just found your website whilst surfing for Rufus gig info when they played in Manchester in the mid 70’s, in Old Trafford I think, Stoneground? I was there but can’t remember exact date, venue details.

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